Hustle Fuels Iowa Western Scoring Machine

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Marc Rardin is one of the elite baseball coaches in college baseball history.

His petal-to-the-metal offensive style has unnerved numerous opponents over the years because of the intense pressure the Reivers put on teams.

Now in his 15th season as the skipper at Iowa Western Community College, he has led the Reivers to NJCAA Division I national titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

This season, his ball club has stolen 63 bases in 71 attempts over 33 games.

In 2014 when the Reivers won their last national title, they stole 146 bases in 67 games.

In the 59-year-history of the NJCAA World Series, Iowa Western is the only Iowa junior college ever to win this prestigious event and the first Northern District representative to win it all.

There’s a reason why his teams at Iowa Western are 665-190 entering the 2017 season.

 “I really like hit and runs and stealing along with utilizing push bunts and drags,” said Rardin who has led the Reivers to nine NJCAA World Series.

“Utilizing the entire offensive arsenal is important in what we do.

“Years ago when Bobby Knight was the head basketball coach at Indiana, his teams played man-to-man, in-your-face defense. When asked why his teams play defense in this fashion, he said this is what his players hate to play against when on offense.

“He utilized the motion offense with a lot of picks. Everybody is moving. The reason is that when Indiana was on defense, players hated guarding that type of offense.

“In baseball, it is difficult to play against a team that has control of the strike zone with a couple of pitches and really change their looks and know how to pick and hold runners. If your third baseman falls asleep at third, they bunt on you. They will move runners and hit and run.

“It’s tiring the whole day when you face teams like this. That’s why we play in this fashion. We want opposing teams to be exhausted by the end of the day. We get in the left lane and try to speed up the game. All we do as coaches with young kids is tell players to slow down. When the game speeds up, these kids can’t hit, field or throw a pitch for a strike.”

Touching The Hot Stove
Rardin’s teams are noted for being aggressive on the base paths.

“There will be some failure, and you have to be good with that. So the first thing I tell my players is that there is aggressiveness and stupidity. Somewhere between those two is where we want to be. That’s the honest truth. The only way we can get to where we want is to run a lot during the fall.

“We are somewhat out of control because our new players have to learn. The only reason a player learns what he can and can’t do on the base paths is to experience success and failure. We call it the ‘hot stove.’ We want our runners to keep touching the hot stove but always be aware that it is hot.

“We work on leads and breaks. Sometimes guys are a little open while others are closed. Not everybody is the same. Sometimes pitchers are good at holding us, and we don’t run as much.

“There are different guys you can steal off. You can run off the pitcher, obviously. You can run on the catcher. You can run on the infielders. You can run and hit because you get people moving around on defense.

“It also goes back to recruiting where you bring in guys who have a little speed. We don’t have barn burners. I give the green light to runners more than people think.

“You always hear that the ‘book’ says never steal third with two outs. I’ve never really seen this book. I go against the book when it comes to stealing. We wouldn’t have won the 2010 national championship if my runners on first and second didn’t double steal with two outs in the ninth inning in the national title game.

“And we stole standing up. There are eight different ways you can score from third than from second. In this case, two pitches later there was a passed ball, and we tied the game up.

“Putting pressure on the other team is absolutely crucial. And this puts them on the defense. My kids love to play that way. If I was a basketball coach, I would utilize the full court press all the time. My team would be up and down the court. If I were a football coach, I would utilize the spread offense and move the ball around. I would put pressure on my opponents any way I could.

“And that’s what I try to do with our team. We are always running, and other teams are consistently aware of that. I can’t tell you how many balls get through the 6-hole because the third baseman is always cheating toward third. The other team knows we will steal third at some time. When you are aggressive on the base paths, you also create these great opportunities offensively.

“During the fall, we work hard on having our runners take off with balls in the dirt by the pitcher. New players to our team might initially watch a ball go in the dirt which is blocked by the catcher and just stand there. But I am furious the young man didn’t read the pitch and take off to the next base.

“The only way they are going to tap into their aggressiveness is being stupid. Then they will be closer to that line of being smart and aggressive.

To read more of this article, purchase the April 21, 2017 edition or subscribe to Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. The rest of this special report delves into Rardin’s system of aggressive base stealing and why it works so well to score runs. It isn’t unusual to see runners on first and third with the batter/runner getting a base hit. When the dust settles, two runs have scored with the batter/runner now on second.